My wife and I were recently on a short break to London for our 10th wedding anniversary. Yesterday we visited the Cabinet War Rooms which we enjoyed very much. The whole site has been restored to the state it was in around 1944-1945 at the end of the war.

One small detail that struck me was the number of bits and pieces of furniture and desk equipment that were entirely dedicated to facilitating the act of smoking cigarettes or, in Churchill’s case, a cigar. It seemed completely alien and absurd that every seat in the Cabinet War Room would be provisioned with a pad of paper, a pencil, a map and …. an ashtray?

Think of the experience of owning a laptop. As I walked through London that week, I was struck by the new standard business uniform: suit, shirt, tie … and massive backpack.

What’s in the backpack? A laptop of about 15”, probably a cheap office-issue Dell, so quite chunky too. A power brick with a big cable tail (which, given our UK plug size, is about the size of a Smart Car). A bag of smaller cables. Maybe a Kindle or an iPad? Some papers, no doubt. A book? A camera?

In another fifty years, I wonder if we’ll look back on the offices used to conduct the Iraq war (I use the word ‘conduct’ loosely) and marvel at how much of the furniture and desk junk was given over to facilitating the act of computing. These huge boxes, the mess of cables, the vast desks and the constant white noise from fans and hard drives. We will wonder how we tolerated it then, later, we will wonder why.